I don't like most business meetings. In general, the important decisions have already been made, or the objectives are so ill defined that it's impossible to measure success. What does occur is a lot of pandering, strutting, puffing, lobbying and pleading. All of this can be quite entertaining, but my ADHD (ADD) makes it harder for me than most to stay focused or at least appear interested as the meeting stretches on. So instead of thinking about all the productive things that I should be doing instead, I simply try to avoid all but the most critical of business gatherings. Perhaps this hasn't always been politically savvy, but I persist in my belief that it's easier to explain an absence than to justify falling asleep in a meeting.
My objections to senseless business 'get togethers' extend to national political conventions: I studiously avoid coverage of these events. Here's why. The game is fixed: we know all the important stuff in advance. The presidential nominees are long since a done deal. (And pardon me for saying so, but the choice of VP is usually of little consequence, though I suddenly find myself obsessed with McCain's health.) The platforms are fixed - not that anyone reads them, believes them or cares. The candidates repeat the same undeliverable promises and insult their opponents with ever decreasing flair. The corporate lobbyists glad hand the same 'impartial' government officials and elected representatives that they do in Washington, but in the spirit of democracy, have to invite more people to their parties. And the professional news media works harder than the producers of Survivor to manufacture something dramatic from trivialities in the hopes of attracting an audience. As a result, the conventions succeed neither as meaningful political process or enjoyable entertainment.
All of this is occurring at a time when the economy is straining to the breaking point. So this morning, instead of reading the billions of opinions and recaps from last night's frivolity, I decided to check out The Wall Street Journal instead. I wanted to see if there were any issues that the politicians (candidates) might find worth addressing on the subject of our economy. Just to make it simple, I confined myself only to the news capsules on the front page. Here's what I learned that might affect all of our pocketbooks and prospects of ever retiring (aka, the impossible dream).
On Thursday, the final day of the Republic convention, the Dow industrial average fell 345 points on the fear of downbeat employment data - unemployment has indeed jumped 20% in less than six months - and worries that many of the major hedge funds are about to implode. Ford is accelerating the rate at which it pays people to leave. Dell is trying to sell all of its factories. In general, retailers had a generally terrible August. And Toll Brothers - those nice people who build houses that no one wants - swung to a loss.
I'm not an economist, but my interpretation of these news items is as follows: lots of currently employed people won't stay that way; banks and other financial institutions are in dire straits which threatens everyone's savings and investments; and the magic consumer axis of retail and housing won't save the economy this time around. All rhetoric aside, both candidates are current serving senators; instead of trying to look presidential by throwing parties, perhaps they could do so by attending to the business of the US Senate.
National political conventions once served a real function but have evolved into expensive and pointless political junkets. We don't need them, and the country would be better off without them. But don't fret too much. We've got http://www.youtube.com/ and iPhones, so you'll have all the entertainment you need, whenever and wherever you want it.